As effectively chilly as it is silly, “White Noise” is far from what you would call a smart or compelling thriller. Still, the whole point of these movies is to get you to jump in your seat a couple of times and consider something you never would have before, and on both counts it succeeds quite admirably.
Combining Canadian locations, British Director Geoffrey Sax, plus a mix of familiar albeit little seen these days talent like Keaton, Unger & McNiece; it all results in what at first feels like a stock US studio thriller but crafted with more patience and an eye for detail.
Chris Seager’s compelling shadowy cinematography and the slick editing deliver effective atmosphere and scares that work even though half the time you know they’re coming. The film’s gimmick of EVP is an intriguing one that works well for the film even if its never fully explained and towards the end severely pushes credibility.
The script’s exploration of the paranormal – especially in the first half – is handled with a well-worn level of restraint and Keaton’s solid and driven performance helps push it along even when the pacing comes to a serious halt towards the middle with little happening.
Unfortunately then comes along the standard Hollywood subplot ideas of precognition, saving people from death, a serial killer and evil spirits. There’s an effective sense of scariness that comes from three silhouetted figures appearing in the transmissions even if the eventual reveal feels like it’s trying too hard.
For all his determination, Keaton’s character never really questions the validity of the whole EVP thing and it’s this lack of doubt that unfortunately undermines what could’ve been a compelling character. Still, everyone keeps their work toned down allowing the direction, the crisp and cool locations and the scares to do their work.
For all its hokey plotlines and lack of realism (where are the cops in all this), Sax’s stylish direction keeps it a level above direct to video schlockiness, even if most of the third act borders on the absurd in an attempt to deliver horror movie payoff thrills. It’s a somewhat silly movie yes, but in all fairness it’s hard not to get a shiver down one’s spine.